During the Funeral for President Gerald Ford it was said time and time again how he was always cordial and respectful towards all people very much including those he disagreed with. He was a lifelong Washington DC politician who was noted to have treated all people, friend and adversary alike, with dignity and respect. And it was genuine.
I suspect a great deal of this came from the fact the President Ford, like so many others in his generation, served in World War II. Those who fought understood the concept of teamwork above all else and saw, first hand, the results of terrible destruction and conflict.
What made this all the more interesting were the observations that it isn’t like that today. We may often debate who we like, who we may or may not vote for, but one thing virtually everyone agreed with after the last election was that it was ugly and nasty. In two years there will be a Presidential election and it will be horrible and mean. We all know it.
I hate to say it but society has become like that. The level of discourse, the ability of people of unlike minds to sit together and have civil conversation has greatly diminished. People who disagree with each other, frankly, are choosing more and more to not associate with one another. The last decade, it has been said, has been one of the ugliest times in Congress, in local governments, and even in churches. More churches have, in the last decade, been split for rancourous debate than ever before. The culture, sadly, has impacted the churches and not visa versa. Instead of bringing people together churches are often one the the groups that helps divide people.
The United Church of Christ has, as its motto, the words of John 17:21, "That they may all be one." It was Jesus' prayer for unity. I'd like to see that we, as a denomination, have done a good job of this, but we, like so many others, aren't very good at it either.
The election of Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford was, in 1976, the first time I had the chance to vote in a Presidential election. I voted for Carter. I liked Ford better, but I received a mailing from Ford with his policies and I found that I didn't agree with a lot of them. So I voted for Jimmy Carter even though I liked Gerald Ford, as a person, much better.
Gerald Ford was a good man. He reminded us that greatness isn't always proving to the world that you are right, but greatness comes from having the ability to respect others and be respected by others.